Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Loui Eriksson's just keep on rolling in Boston

By Larry Wigge

A little voice constantly rolls around in Loui Eriksson's head. It gets louder these days.

It's about not settling short.

"I remember telling him, 'Don't be satisfied with just being a solid player,' " Arizona coach Dave Tippett recalled of conversation he has with Eriksson when the two of them were with the Dallas Stars. "I told him, 'There are times in games where you can step up and be an extraordinary player. So, don't just hover around the perimeter. Go to the net, where you have to pay a price ... but you can elevate your game."

Message heard loud and clear. Suddenly, it was Loui Loui, he's on the go. Loui Loui, he's on a roll.

The 6-2, 183-pound left winger from Goteborg, Sweden, became a 20-goal scorer and 70-point scorer. Oh, he top that in 2008-09 with a 36-goal campain. But ...

Then he was traded prospects Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser to Boston for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button on July 4, 2013.

Things were never the same for Eriksson after the lop-sided trade, because in the last three years his numbers were compared to Seguin's 37 goals and 47 assists in 2013-14 and 37 and 40 last season plus 32 goal and 36 assists after 67 games this season.

Eriksson's numbers would look meagher next to Seguin's.

"Lots of people judge him on the Seguin trade and they compare those two, but they're totally different players," said Boston teammate David Krecji. "They're both very good players. Loui is so good at all the little details, he's very good at both ends of the ice. And so far this year, the puck is going in the net for him."

Rightly or wrongly, the Bruins traded Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, and there was cast in the shadow of Seguin -- this despite Eriksson's 24 goals, 26 assists this season.

"Maybe a little bit," Eriksson said when asked if he was worried about the comparisons. "But that's how it is to play in this game. You have to have pressure on you and I think everyone is ready for it. So I'm just going to do all I can to prove to all the guys here that I'm a good player."

Said Boston coach Claude Julien, "I think it's pretty obvious he's a smart player. His pace of the game is getting better as he's getting used to his linemates. When a coach has players that he trusts, that he can put on at the end of the game, he's always one of those guys that is on the list.

"That says a lot about his game. Eriksson's first season was a rough one with the concussions, but since then I think he's just gotten better and he's getting more comfortable with our team and our surroundings."

For me, when I first talk to a young player on the rise, I always want to get inside of him and see what makes him tick.

One of the prime questions is: What obstacle did you have to overcome to get to where you are today? For Eriksson, that was the skinny.

"My dad always told me you start with small goals and then listen to other people who know more about the game than you do, work as hard as you can at the things that will make you a complete player and then have confidence that your drive will take you to your dreams," Eriksson explained. "Yeah, I was real skinny, but I was confident I had the skills to someday play in the NHL."

Still, the story of this former second-round pick, 33rd overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft began last season as only a sidebar.

But the impetus, the drive began when he was 15 and his dad, Bo, a pretty good handyman for years was stricken with a brain tumor. Following the surgery the left side of Bo's body was left limp following the removal of the tumor.

"When you're young, you think you're parents are so strong, that there's nothing they can't do," Loui said, eyes wide open and focused on telling me how much his father fought through this affliction to continue working for Qunnila, a computer company in Goteberg. "Whenever I'm feel a little bruised or achy, a picture of my dad pops into my brain. Nothing stops him. He doesn't complain about what happened to him. He gets up in the morning like always and goes into work and fixes those computers."

Now, you see where that work ethic and drive that Eriksson shows on the ice each game comes from.

Eriksson may not have the bulldozer skills of Peter Forsberg, his favorite player growing up, but the impact Loui provided the Stars last season and is doing it again this season -- he can make all the plays, whether it be make or take a long stretch pass in stride for a break or use his stickhandling skills and creativity to weave through the traffic in front of the net to give the Stars another scoring opportunity.

"Loui is a lot like Jere Lehtinen," Brendan Morrow said of the reliable winger from earlier in his career at Dallas. "He does a good job of complementing everyone."

Whether it's been Dave Tippett, Marc Crawford or Glen Gulutzan as coach of the Dallas Stars, each one of them came away with a quick reaction of sorts to leading scorer Loui Eriksson.

"He's sneaky," said Gulutzan in his first year of coaching in the NHL. "He's got that sneaky, smart way to fly under the radar because he is so cerebral ... and he does everything real well."

Tippett recalled a conversation he once had the Dave Allison, then coach of the Stars minor league affiliate. He asked who he should keep his eyes on.

"I was caught offguard a little, because I thought Loui was pretty nondescript at the Stars training camp a few months earlier. But Dave insisted, 'He reminds me of Jere Lehtinen. I don't have a player any more consistent than Eriksson. You can put him on the No. 1 line or the checking line. He's very responsible defensively, but he makes an impact offensively -- finding ways to use his skating and shooting skills while going to the net.' "

But it will always come back to Loui Eriksson's numbers vs. Taylor Seguin's.

Looke at it the other way: Would Boston GM Peter Chiarelli think twice about taking on Eriksson's contract over Seguin's?

"When his name made it into the discussion," Chiarelli said, "it was like, ‘Yeah, we'd have interest.'"

Think about THAT.

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